Brooke Elizabeth Cottrill, just turned seventeen in June, and is about to start her senior year at Bridgeport High School. The singer, songwriter and pianist, who recently released her debut CD, "No Princess," was born in Clarksburg.
This young lady sings with a maturity and vulnerability that is quite rare in someone still in high school and it is quite obvious the deep impact her musical upbringing has had.
We think that the world will be hearing great things from Brooke Cottrill.
Graffiti: How's high school going so far?
Answer: It's going well! I'm working hard on my classes and my music. I have learned a lot in my classes and about the people around me. Friends have come, friends have gone, and I've met some really cool people that I hope stay in my life for a while. I'm making good grades, and I'm in the jazz band, school plays, National Honor Society, etc. I also work at Gap and am a junior volunteer at United Hospital Center. I just wanna make the most of the time I have left (at school), and then go onto bigger and better things.
Graffiti: Most of the songs on "No Princess" were written before you even entered high school. Where did these feelings come from at such a young age?
- Cottrill's songs are available on iTunes and her CDs are available for purchase at Bandland in Clarksburg, Showtime Music Center in the Meadowbrook Mall in Bridgeport and through BrookeCottrill.com.
- Cottrill will perform at the Bridgeport Farmer's Market on July 29 at 10 a.m., at the Meadowbrook Mall in Bridgeport on Aug. 1 at 7 p.m. and at the T&L Car Cruise of the Summer in Rosebud Plaza in Clarksburg on Sept. 22.
Answer: Well, when you're in middle school, you're learning about not only your friends, but yourself. It's such an awkward stage, with everyone changing at different speeds, and puberty, and the whole lot. I've always done my own thing and never cared about how others viewed me. But at any age, you're going to meet people who want you to succeed and care about you, and you're going to meet people who want to bring you down or think they're better than everybody else. That bothers me. There were times where I felt I wasn't treated fairly, so I wrote songs about how I felt. I've always been a very passionate person, and I've always had the ideal of everyone being treated equally. So that's where I found my inspiration, people treating me badly and putting me through pain and watching others go through the same thing.
Graffiti: What was the inspiration for your latest album? Why the title, "No Princess?"
Answer: There were a lot of things that went into it. Like I said earlier, I don't like seeing others being treated unfairly, or people telling me what to do or acting like they're better than me. But it's basically just whenever I found inspiration from an event in my life. Even though the majority of the songs are angsty and in-your-face, there are some others that are more uplifting, and some maybe that are a little darker. "No Princess" is actually the oldest song on the album - I wrote it in seventh grade and it's about not wanting to fit in with everybody else and not caring what others thought about me. Which is basically my motto about life. Someone gave me the idea that "No Princess" should also be the album title, which made perfect sense because it describes who I am and it contains the biggest message throughout the album: I'm gonna be who I want, and there's nothing you can do to stop me.
Graffiti: When did you start learning to sing and play piano?
Answer: I've been singing since the day I was born, I'm fairly sure. My dad has tapes of me singing in his old recording studio, and videos of me at the age of about four or five jumping up and down on the bed singing songs from the Disney movie "Mulan." I began taking voice lessons when I was 11. My dad got me a light-up keyboard when I was about six, and I started taking lessons and learning really basic songs. I learned a lot on my own, though, like "A Thousand Miles" by Vanessa Carlton. It just kinda took off from there.
Graffiti: What kind of music do you like to listen to? Who are your idols or inspiration?
Answer: I listen to a lot of rock, pop, punk, alternative, metal, etc. I like most genres of music, but the rock/alternative stuff is what I mainly listen to, especially pop/punk bands like My Chemical Romance, Paramore, Green Day, Fall Out Boy. I have a lot of idols, like Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance, Hayley Williams of Paramore, Lzzy Hale of Halestorm, Grace Potter, Pat Benatar, Ann Wilson of Heart, and many others. But the main two that really inspired me to take off with my piano playing and songwriting are Amy Lee of Evanescence and Vanessa Carlton. The reason they're the most important to me is because they're both women who know what they want, they're both extremely talented, and they are both like me: singer, songwriter, pianist. They showed me ways to make piano playing interesting and inspired me musically and lyrically. They're unique and insanely talented, and I would love to meet them one day.
Graffiti: What kind of role have your parents and family played in your musical life?
Answer: Everything! My dad produced, mixed, recorded, and played guitar and bass on the album. I never would have been able record this CD without him. He's always playing music for us, since we were little kids. We would listen to The Beatles as we made pancakes in the morning. He got me started playing piano when I was really little. My mom's also been the most supportive mother I could ask for. She's signed me up for lessons, performances, musicals, anything that would encourage me to continue music. My little sisters have always been into music as well. My middle sister, Hannah, can play about six different instruments, and we're in a rock band together where she plays drums. She plays bass guitar for live performances of the album. And my youngest sister, Erica, is learning how to play bass, and she sings and is joining band in middle school. I've been surrounded by music my entire life.
Graffiti: What's your ideal end-game plan with your career? Any big goals you'd like to achieve, like a specific record deal or playing at a certain venue? Would you like to attend college?
Answer: My absolute biggest dream in life is to be a professional songwriter and musician and tour the world. But whose isn't? I don't really have a specific label in mind, but I do like a lot of bands from Warner Brothers, Fueled By Ramen, etc. One of my biggest dreams is to one day have an album produced by Rob Cavallo and mixed by Chris Lord-Alge, who appear on half the albums I buy. I'd love to see other countries and play there and experience their culture. But since the chances of all that are one in a million, my plan as of right now is to go to WVU, get into medical school and hopefully become a neurologist. In any event, singing, playing piano, and songwriting will always be a part of my life somehow.
Graffiti: If you had any advice for other young musicians just starting out, what would it be?
Answer: First of all, you have to practice your butt off if you want to get better. You can't really just show up and have others spoon feed you all the time. Find a genre you really like, find some artists that involve the instrument you play, and just work hard to learn it. The feeling you get when you learn a song you love is wonderful. Start out with easy stuff and work your way up to the hard stuff. You're not going to be able to play Rush or Van Halen if you've only been playing for a few months. There are two ways to learn music: sheet music and learning by ear. Listen to others, especially people who are older and more experienced than you, because even though you've got that part down pat in your head, someone else might know how to make you sound better. That especially goes for songwriters. Experiment with other styles of music and other ways of playing - you could learn a lot. And most importantly, do what you want. Don't let others tell you what to sing or play, what genre you should perform. It's your life. You don't have to appease anybody. The most important thing you can do with your music is to be yourself. Yeah, you should listen to others, and have famous musicians you look up to and want to learn from, but never copy anybody. We don't wanna hear another John Lennon or Kurt Cobain. We wanna hear something new. We wanna hear YOU.
Graffiti: What can we expect next from you? More shows? Another album? More videos? What's next for Brooke Cottrill?
Answer: Now that the album is out, I am playing live shows to support the CD. I want to keep scheduling more shows. We shot the first video, Heartache, with our own camcorders and put it on Youtube. We are definitely going to shoot more videos for some of the other tracks on the CD. I am continuing to write songs. I'm fairly sure we have more in the works, but you can stay in tune with what I'm doing through www.brookecottrill.com and my Facebook page.